Identity Designed is a showcase of brand identity projects from around the world.

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Contributed by Isaac Arthur of Indianapolis-based CODO Design.

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

After two and a half years, Tomlinson Tap Room is one of CODO’s longest standing client relationships. Aside from being a fun place to hang out (it’s a bar that features only Indiana-brewed craft beer inside the historic Indianapolis City Market) it’s turned into a marquee project that has helped us earn tons of new work over the last few years.

In a lot of ways, the folks behind Tomlinson took a chance on us and it was one of our first “big” projects where our young firm was able to fully apply our hands-on branding process and shape nearly every single touchpoint along the way.

But as proud as we are of Tomlinson’s brand foundation, a glaring hole in the overall experience has always been a lack of proper menus. At the time, they didn’t have the budget to tackle them, and the idea of suggesting a nontraditional design and build approach didn’t dawn on us until last year.

Born out of dozens of conversations with the bar manager and staff, we started to get an idea for how we could design and build a menu system that would do Tomlinson and the amazing beer it serves justice.

Overall, it was determined that the menus needed to do the following:

  1. Beer names need to be written in chalk since the taps rotate so often.
  2. These chalk board “slates” need to be able to be taken down and written upon on a flat surface for legibility.
  3. We need to clearly display brewery logos to make ordering beer easier for the customer.
  4. They need to fall within the art direction we developed for Tomlinson Tap Room two and a half years ago.
  5. And finally, this all has to be designed and built as cheaply as possible.

With these parameters in mind, we began sketching and prototyping several different options. After some feedback from everyone at the bar, it was woodshop time!

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

The first step was to make a few sturdy backboards. We priced a lot of different lumber and ended up going with some knotty pine stock. Aside from having loads of character, it was dirt cheap.

After cutting them to shape, we rough-sanded them, applied three heavy coats of oil stain and topped them off with three hand-rubbed coats of paste wax for a gorgeous luster.

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Once the backboards were finished, we began fabricating the chalkboard slates. This arduous process consisted of ripping, chopping and painting pieces of small trim with chalkboard paint and attaching them to the slates themselves.

We didn’t get any shots of the brewery logo pucks but all they are is chopped up masonite with each logo printed on label stock. This wasn’t our first choice, but they ended up looking so nice that we didn’t have to explore a more expensive route.

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

The idea for a three-dimensional ‘T’ on top of the menus came from the bar manager, Ben. When he initially suggested it, we told him it’d look bad.

We were wrong.

We had some beautiful cherry blocks laying around the wood shop (actually scraps from our custom work desks) and simply cut them to shape on the band saw. The result is a nice touch to the entire system.

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

And that’s it! After 65 hours of design, planning and building, we were able to slip into Tomlinson Tap Room after hours one night and install everything. They’re holding up perfectly and it’s a lot of fun to see random photos of them pop up on beer blogs and in CODO’s Facebook feed.

Now that these are finished, we’re working on a custom foot rail for the bar along with some larger environmental signage to make the Indiana craft beer experience even better.

If you’re ever in our great town, swing by and check out Tomlinson Tap Room inside the Indianapolis City Market.

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

Tomlinson Tap Room menu

View CODO’s earlier brand identity work for Tomlinson Tap Room.

More projects on the CODO Design website. Follow CODO Design on Twitter.

8 appreciated remarks about “Tomlinson Tap Room menu”

  1. Brilliant, if any of the guys from CODO Design are reading this (and anyone else for that matter) I highly recommend reading Designing For Social Change by Andrew Shea.

    Although the work isn’t directly related in terms of social/non-profit, the approach CODO took reminds me very much of some of the things discussed in the book – immersing yourself in the community and focusing on the function over glossy, “looks good in the portfolio” outcomes.

    Lovely stuff!

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Tom! We just picked it up!

  3. After all that effort, i have to say the finished article is relatively uninspiring.

    Love the dark wood and definitely and improvement on what was there before but overall not the best piece featured on this site.

  4. After reading, scrolling, reading, looking at pics, scrolling… I was disappointed at the end result. A lacquered T on wood with some swapable, chalkboard signs. Not sure where the design is in this. It’s more of a woodworking class project.

  5. Well, to me it answered all the design criteria. It served its function (easy to update the menu, legibility, etc) and its form fits into the overall look of the bar. What’s not to like. :)

  6. Great piece! My definition of good design is that which elegantly fulfills its purpose. This piece fulfills its purpose in both form and function and its design is both attractive and unique. Perhaps most importantly, it beautifully solves the problem for which it was intended and is entirely consistent with Tomlinson’s branding. What else can you ask of design?

  7. TENNENTS… that’s all I can see, straight away it’s all I can think of, i’m surprised no-one would have seen this from initial ideas and not mentioned it. Very risky in my opinion, far too close for comfort.

  8. Love this. Would love to have some of those wooden symbols done for our logo. Beautiful out of the box thinking for a design solution.

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